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Unfortunately many small trout-fisheries have closed, or converted to carp fishing over the last decade. However, a few are still out there, and Exe Valley Fishery near the Somerset-Devon border is one of them. I've known of the place for a long time, but made my first visit recently late on a cloudy July morning.
The fishery is not far from Tiverton off junction 27 of the M5, the same junction you take for Bellbrook. There are three lakes for fishing, although it seems that only the largest is fished regularly -- at least that's the impression I got after talking to some regulars and a lady, who I think was the landowner. You can check out the layout on Google Earth by putting in the postcode TA22 9AY. The lake I fished is to the SW of the complex.
On arriving I found the tackle shop was being refurbished, and tickets were available at a self-service kiosk, so I opted for a 4 fish ticket at £22. After purchasing that, I walked towards the larger lake, passing a much smaller one with a few dead trout floating in the margins. This didn't exactly inspire confidence! Fortunately the lake I was heading for appeared far more tempting, with mature planting, and the odd fish topping. The water was crystal clear, despite the adjacent Exe being coloured from the recent rain. The lake bed was visible for some distance from the bank, and appeared mainly gravel, with only a little weed. I walked east, along the north bank, then around to the south bank, spotting several trout on the way, including three in the stream feeding the lake. I opted to start fishing about one third of the way along this bank, where a shallow spit seemed to cross. A few anglers were already fishing further to the west, and I noticed one land a fish as I tackled up.
A breeze from the west occasionally picked up a ripple in front of me, and every now and then a fish swirled in the shallow water. I decide to fish small as I assumed the trout had seen more than a few lines and flies that morning, and would be a little shy. I tied a size 14 buzzer to a 4lb fluorocarbon point, then cast it across the lake on a WF7 floater, and started a slow retrieve. Immediately there was a tap-tap at the fly, typical of stockies. Resisting the temptation to strike, I continued retrieving, but none of the taps developed into fish-hooking pulls. Next cast, the same thing happened, until about 15 yards out a fish grabbed hold properly, and the first trout of the day was soon on the bank at about 2.5lbs.
Things went quiet for the next ten minutes, with just the odd tap at the fly. Another angler came over for a chat, and as we talked a fish took the fly about 25 yards out, and sped off down the lake. The chap commented that it was a chunky specimen, and after the intial rush, it fought more like a carp than a trout. As it neared the bank, a couple of times I though it had weeded me. Then I got a glimpse of its size, and realised that was responsible for the difficulty moving it, not the weed! After ten minutes, the other angler netted it for me. It looked big -- I was thinking 8lb+. He reckoned on 10lb, and later the scales showed it close to that at 9lb 8oz.
Following that, I quickly managed two more fish about 2.5lbs each, to complete my limit, and an enjoyable hour's sport. I'll certainly visit the place again. It's not the sort of place I'd fish regularly, but for some easy sport, it's just the ticket.